20 Injured in Tower Sieges; Police, Soldiers Attacked at Border Security Posts

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MORE than 20 police and soldiers were injured yesterday when a republican crowd armed with petrol bombs, iron bars, bottles and fireworks attacked security installations.

Two officers were airlifted from the border to hospital with serious head injuries following the incidents at two watchtowers and a police station in south Armagh. One soldier was transferred to a Belfast hospital with serious burns.

Four people - including two juveniles - from the Belfast area were arrested for suspected public order offences.

The arrests were made after a bus seen leaving the area and understood to be destined for Belfast was stopped by police on the main A1 road near Loughbrickland.

Police later described the violence as "clearly orchestrated and pre-planned".

It was the second time within a month that trouble had flared at what were billed as demilitarisation demonstrations organised by Sinn Fein's youth wing.

A crowd of more than 100 protestors attacked the Creevekeeran watchtower after arriving in a fleet of buses and cars.

Nine police were injured when they tried to stop the crowd cutting its way through perimeter fencing.

The protestors, who Sinn Fein claimed also represented South Armagh Farmers and Residents campaign group, then filed back to their transport to travel to the neighbouring Drummakavall watchtower.

There they launched a similar attack, injuring 10 officers. Police fired two plastic bullets as they repelled the onslaught.

Next the mob moved on and attacked the Crossmaglen police station, breaching the main entrance and attacking police and military personnel inside with petrol bombs and other missiles.

Three soldiers and two dogs were injured in that attack.

One of the men suffered burns and the effects of smoke inhalation when the protestors filled a large oil drum with petrol and set it alight against the main gate.

The Army fired one plastic bullet during the attack, said a police spokesman, who added that a

considerable amount of damage had been caused to the outside of the station.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "From the onset it is clear this was a well-orchestrated protest that was never intended to be peaceful. …